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Chance the Rapper and Common call for Illinois to restore discretionary parole for life sentences

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Chicago hip hop stars Chance the Rapper and Common are calling upon the state of Illinois to reinstate the parole system that was abolished in 1978, which allowed for more discretion in granting parole to inmates serving life sentences.

The pair joined parole advocates at a news conference Wednesday outside of Cook County jail in the Windy City. Chance recalled when he performed for a group of incarcerated men who were graduating with bachelor’s degrees at Stateville prison in Joliet, Illinois in 2019, and seeing them shackled during his show.

“We need to understand incarceration for what it is, it’s torture,” the three-time Grammy winner said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “We need to start pushing and transforming our criminal justice system and sentencing laws with this reality in mind. That means pushing for policies like parole.”

“We need a criminal justice system that reflects the values we want to see in this world — compassion, care, restorative justice and transformative justice,” he added.

House Bill 2399 and Senate Bill 2333 both would provide an opportunity for prisoners serving life sentences to go before a parole board after serving 20 years.

Common talked about how focusing on reducing prison populations could help reduce violence on the streets of Chicago.

“I met some of the most enlightened and inspiring people in prison,” said the Oscar and Grammy winner, who
fights for criminal justice reform through the non profit Imagine Justice organization he founded in 2018.

“One gentleman said to me, ‘Imagine being trapped in one act for the rest of your life, the worst for the rest of your life.’ I’ve thought about that. If that happened for me, I wouldn’t be up here with you all.”

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